Leading industry figures including Sir John Hegarty have paid tribute to Denham, who passed away at his home in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, after a long battle with multiple sclerosis and having been diagnosed with cancer last summer.
Denham had two spells at Bartle Bogle Hegarty, most recently as a creative group head from 1989 to 1992. It was part of a career spanning four decades and 11 agencies.
During that time, he helped produce standout work for Audi and Levi jeans. Later in his career he produced TV commercials and posters for The History Channel.
His honours included a silver at the Campaign Press Awards and a gold at the Art Directors Club of New York. His creative collaborators during his career included Barbara Nokes, Rosie Arnold and Martin Galton, who became a founding partner of Hooper Galton.
Denham, was known for his irreverence and non-conformity as well his healthy disrespect for authority. But he was also admired for the way in which he helped nurture the younger members of the creative departments in which he worked.
Hegarty said: "Gary was a true ‘renaissance man’. An original art director, fabulous designer, hugely talented photographer and a wonderful artist. Advertising sadly never really realised his formidable talents. That’s advertising’s loss."
Simon Sherwood, BBH’s former worldwide chief executive, admitted: "I never quite figured him out but always respected his talent. And I remember him being very cool."
Galton said: "Apart from being a maverick and the best art director I know, he was also a brillliant artist and photographer. He had a visual sense like no other."
Rooney Carruthers, VCCP’s former creative chief, who spent two years with Denham at Leagas Delaney, described him as "truly gifted" but added he would remember him most for his "razor-sharp humour".
Denham’s long-time friend, the industry headhunter Liz Harold, said: "Advertising couldn’t contain his talent. It was too big and diverse for our industry.
Beginning his career as an art director at The Kirkwood Company in 1971, Denham’s other agencies included French Gold Abbott, Boase Massimi Pollitt, Holmes Knight Ritchie, Aspect Hill Holliday and KHBB. From the mid-90s he worked as a freelance art director, photographer and painter.
Harold, Galton and other industry colleagues are currently working to fulfil Denham’s last wish, which was to publish a book of his work. It will be called Snapshots and Sketches and include 360 black-and-white images at a cost of £65. Profits will go to the Multiple Sclerosis Society.
Denham is survived by his wife, Vivienne, and their five children.
His funeral will take place on 25 January at 2.30pm at St Peter’s Church in Berkhamsted High Street. Anyone who knew him is welcome to attend. No flowers but donations to The Chiltern MS Centre in Wendover are appreciated.